I Am Not Your Negro ★★★★

Baldwin is more than a means to an end here, although at times he’s merely that, decontextualized and universalized in a way that prizes relevance over accuracy. Peck weaponizes this great outsider’s life story to offer one of cinema’s definitive statements on the cowardice and willful ignorance behind racism in America, which won’t come as news to anyone who’s ever thought about such things, yet still is stated here with such moral authority that the message takes on a new urgency. Samuel L. Jackson’s voiceover stands as one of 2016’s best film performances, just as Baldwin himself emerges here as one of 2016’s most astute cultural critics. This at once is a distortion of history and a reminder that, as Baldwin himself states, “history is the present.”